Samir Chopra August 7, 2009

The India-Australia relationship is a special one

On the cricketing field, it has provided some of the best cricket of recent years

I'd stand accused (and rightly so) of being an utterly naive fool were I to say that I had not anticipated some of the comments section flaming that followed on the heels of my post about Ricky Ponting. But that doesn't make it any less depressing. I'm not counting the posts here that simply criticized Ponting as a captain, batsman or whatever; I mean the posts that were pointedly personal or generalized remarks about the respective countries' teams, players and fans. The India-Australia bickerfest shows no sign of abating, and while it might provide the occasional entertaining moment, it is by and large, a very unedifying business.

Now, I have gotten into net spats myself. I have not followed the simple policy of thinking long and hard about whether I really want to post the angry retort that I've just typed up. I'm a flame war veteran, and will be the first to acknowledge that I've exploited the anonymity the Internet affords when it comes to online disagreements. But in the particular context of the India-Australia rivalry, there is a certain line I don't cross (or at least, I hope I haven't), and the reason for that is quite simple.

I have Australian friends. Most of whom are passionate cricket fans. Very knowledgeable ones. And I love discussing cricket with them. They know their cricketing history, they are very appreciative of Indian cricketers. I've lived in Australia for two years and played cricket with Australians and loved every single minute of it. This winter (the southern summer) I will travel to Sydney again and hopefully play a game again with my old team.

In these circumstances, there is no way I can bring myself to negatively generalize about the country, its cricket teams, fans or the cricketing culture. If I've ever done it in the heat of the moment, I've regretted it deeply.

So in that spirit, I'd like to make a simple suggestion as the fourth Ashes Test gets underway. I might be accused of being cheesy but I'll take that risk.

Find a way to watch a game with a fan from the Other Side. This won't be easy for Indians in India, but if you're a member of the Great Diaspora, try and find an Aussie expat and a venue for cricket watching. If you're an Aussie, you won't have a hard time finding an Indian cricket fan in your town. Find a pub that shows the game, buy a few rounds of pots, middies or schooners (or whatever the standard measure happens to be in your state) of beer, and watch a game of cricket together.

It's hard to be rude and offensive when you have to do it in person. It's easier to listen when the other person is talking face to face to you. And it's harder to generalize when there is a concrete counterexample to your generalization sitting in front of you.

The India-Australia relationship in cricket is a special one. On the cricketing field, it has provided some of the best cricket of recent years. Indian fans know their history and their game. So do the Aussies. This constant puerile flaming online does no one any credit. The rivalry is intense sure, and I've even joked about it here, but really, does everything need to get so personal?

And besides, the Ashes are on, and there is a Common Enemy to confront! If that doesn't bring us together, what can?

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here